Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is Smoking a Habit or an Addiction?

Cut that out!
Is smoking cigarettes just a habit or is it truly an addiction?  When you want to stop smoking, why is it so often referred to as "kicking the habit?"  People tell you, "you gotta kick the habit!"  When you google "kick the habit" the results are all about smoking.

The Cliff Clavin in me is always curious about where phrases like this come from!  Answers.com says that the phrase Kick The Habit originated in the late 19th Century as a reference to withdrawals from opiate addiction.  Back in the day you could get Opium, think predecessor to Heroin, and Laudanum, (think liquid opium) legally and easily from the local Chinatown or corner drugstore.  Ah, the good ol' 1800's!  So, for those of you not privy to withdrawal from Opium and Laudanum, myself included, thank God, when you're in the throws of withdrawal, your nervous system is all whacked out and you may have involuntary spasms and seizures which could result in you kicking.  Now the word habit is something else entirely.  Originally habit was used to refer to appearance or dress.  Like a nun, she wears a habit.  Now somewhere in the 1880's the word evolved from something you have "on" in the physical world to something emotionally driven.  Like sipping laudanum or drinking whiskey.  Victorian etiquette never likes to call a spade a spade.  Plus, "addiction" as we know it today really wasn't used until the early 1900's so when you were addicted to something, people would say you have the "habit."  Interesting, no?  Especially when many people believe it is easier to get off the opiates than then cigarettes.

So on to the inspiration behind this blog.  From the Napoleon Hill Thought for the day:  

"Human faults are like garden weeds. They grow without cultivation and soon take over the place if they are not thinned out."

"Habits are formed so slowly that most of us don't realize what is happening until the habits are too strongly entrenched to be broken. Seldom can one pattern of behavior be eliminated without replacing it with another. It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum and will always find something to fill a void. The best way to thin out the "weeds," or faults in your character, is to identify those traits with which you are dissatisfied and replace them with their positive counterparts. If you have a tendency to lose your temper, for example, find a replacement for your anger. Neutralize it with a positive expression or affirmation, such as, "No one can make me angry unless I let them. I will not let anyone else control my emotions." 

What's your habit?
This goes for puffing on small cylindrical objects as well.  While starting out as an occasional activity, smoking very often leads to a habitual behavior and before you know a physical addiction begins to develop.  No, duh!  Right?  So enough of the obvious and on to the more subtle, finer points...

In How to Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, I make a very specific distinction between quitting and stopping.  One is comprehensible to the addict and the other is not.  So with that in mind, what do you think is easier to deal with?  A habit or an addiction?  Psychologically, I'm going to go with habit.  What do you need to do to break a habit?  Well habits have a 30-40 day incubation time.  They also have a trigger.  Something that sets them off.  More often then not, the trigger lies deep in the subconscious.  Your luxury as a human being is the ability to recognize when the trigger is acting up by ways of a craving.  Breaking the habit means riding out the craving.  It does not mean you have to go to therapy to sort out why you've got this bad habit.  Obviously, knowing your history will help in the process and add motivation, but the simple action of decision is the most powerful tool in your arsenal to not smoke.  When you go to the addiction side, it reverts back to a physical need for something.  Not a want.  Wants you can manage.  Needs must be met.  Semantics?  Yes, but words are incredibly powerful.  Try this...  don't think of a pink elephant.  See?  Look what I made you do!  

Let me sum this up by quoting Wayne Dyer.  "Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change."  

So now you want to stop smoking.  Are you addicted or do you just have a bad habit.  If you try to quit, you will soon find that you're addicted.  If you just stop, you will find yourself shedding a very bad habit.

For more on semantics, humor and direction, pick up a copy of How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone.  Available now on Amazon.com or if you'd like to take a look at the Forward and Chapter 1: Stop Trying to Quit, you can do so over on www.stopdontquit.com.

Have a question or comment?  Leave it below!  As always this is your blog too, I welcome the discourse.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Kind of Smoker Are You?

Smoke free in 30 days.  This is a new book by Daniel F. Seidman.  DOCTOR Daniel F. Seidman, thank you very much.  Doctor Dan (if I may be so bold) is the director of smoking cessation services at Columbia University Medical Center.  He's been in the business of helping folks kick the habit for over 20 years.  He's got a pretty cool motto:  "Nothing feels better than accomplishing something you didn't know you could do."  And speaking of cool, he is, in addition to being a psycho therapist, a jazz musician who credits the skill and art of improvisation as a useful tool for helping others. Dr. Dan's latest book is called Smoke Free in 30 Days:  The Pain Free, Permanent Way to Quit.  The Forward is written by Dr. Mamet Oz.  Dr. Oz is also one cool cat.

I was brought to this book by an article in Yahoo that was emailed to me by my wife.  In the article from Yahoo Shine, the publishers along with Dr. Dan, ask the question, "What kind of smoker are you?"  They then go on to identify the 6 major types of smokers.  I'll list them for you now:

  • Recreational or Social Smoker.
  • Scared-to-Quit Smoker.
  • Emotion-Triggered Smoker.
  • Worried-About-Weight Smoker.
  • The Alcoholic Smoker.
  • The Situational Smoker.
Ironically, in my book How to Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, I  touch on a lot of these points.  Not having read Dr. Dan's book yet, I'm not comfortable voicing a complete opinion of the merit of the book, but from here and so far, all I can say is if Dr. Oz is down with it, so am I.  I figure, take all the help you can get. 

Not every voice is going to be music to year ears.  If my book doesn't get the job done, try this one.  Try everything until you find the thing that works for you.  Perhaps you don't want to get lectured to?  Perhaps you need to get it from a more conversational stand point.  From someone who's actually been there.  Now, 20 plus years of working with people addicted to nicotine and hearing all the reasons one starts smoking is a wealth of knowledge that any person in their right mind who's trying to quit will want to tap into...

And there in lies the rub.  Your brain has been chemically altered and you are now physically addicted to nicotine.  Clearly, you are not in your right mind!  You, like me, are off in some 1940's mentality where opera singers sing the praises of Camel and medical doctors recommend Lucky Strikes.  What?  Well if you're still smoking at this point then you've somehow managed to convince yourself that either 60 years of evidence, research and DEATH doesn't necessarily apply to you or your self esteem is so low that the evidence, research and DEATH doesn't really matter.

Pow!  Right between the eyes.  See I'm not going to pull any punches here.  And since I'm still a smoker (who doesn't smoke) and still in my 1940's mentality (I'm listening to Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters while I write this) I'm gonna give it to you straight, see?

Regardless of your emotional level or paradigm, it's time to kick the habit.

For the Recreational-Social Smoker, you will have the easiest time with this because you're not fully dialed into it yet.  YET, being the key word.  Sooner or later if you don't pass up on the smokey treats you will find yourself passing on other things like; breathing with ease, running, and away.  Get it?  Passing...  away?

The Scared-to-Quit Smoker is actually a big part of my book.  Not that I meant to.  But reading about this type of smoker actually added a little validity to my own efforts.  I fluttered about the title for a long time.  I knew I wanted it to be a little amusing but by chapter 1, you'll see why it's called How to Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone and not How to Quit Smoking Without Killing Anyone.  You'll also find out why I believe it's impossible to quit so don't even bother.  You can however STOP.  There's a huge difference and that difference can make or break your efforts to drop the smoking habit once and for all.

For The Emotion-Triggered Smoker,  I noticed a piece of the emotion puzzle was missing.  Granted, I haven't read the book, so again, it may be in there.  Currently, I'm commenting on the article and not the book.  So what was missing from the Emotion-Triggered Smoker paragraph?  This paragraph talks about the smoker who reaches for a cigarette when he/she encounters a problem.  Negative emotions are only one side of the Camel-Cash.  What about the positive emotions?  After a great meal?  After great sex?  Actually, even the worst sex I've ever had was still pretty great so...  where was I?  Oh yes, the after sex cigarette!  The good music on the radio while on a road trip cigarette?  Cigarettes are there for you in good times and in bad times and negative emotions are only one trigger.  The happy times can cause just as much of a powerful craving as anything negative. 

The Worried-About-Weight Smoker.  Conveniently, How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone has The Stop Smoking Diet!  "But wait a second," you say, "I'm trying to quit smoking here!  Now I gotta watch what I eat too?"  Well you're the one who brought up weight gain, not me!  Look, Dr. Dan's right on the money here.  Let's prioritize things a bit.  Yes, putting on a few pounds might suck in the beginning (pun intended).  Fortunately, if you keep smoking, there's a very powerful weight loss combination called Cancer and Chemotherapy that will virtually guarantee you shed those unwanted pounds...

The Alcoholic-Smoker.  This is my favorite one!  If you're getting off the sauce, still on the sauce, or have been off the sauce for a while but are struggling with knocking off the smoking part take a look at the bigger picture here.  In the article this paragraph slips into a little psychobabble about shame and guilt.  I had to go back and read this paragraph a few times.  Let me translate.  Give yourself the permission you need to love yourself just enough to take your life back.  A craving is just that, a craving.  Nobody says you have to act on it.  But your craving is more like a compulsion.  A compulsion is just a really strong craving.  Look, I've struggled with addiction a good majority of my life and have managed to find a way to come out of the fog.  How?  I decided to.  That's how.  And yes it is that simple.  Please let's not confuse simple with easy.  Addiction is the symptom.  What is the cause?  Have you been self medicating?  I know I was.  I own that now.  I own my addiction too.  That is why I refereed to myself as a smoker who doesn't smoke.  I am also a friend of Bill.  Are you?  12 Steps later and you're still self medicating with nicotine.  Better than drinking yourself into the grave I suppose but once you get a handle on the wagon rains it may very well just be the beginning.  That's one battle.  The war is addiction.

The Situational Smoker!
If you're a Situational Smoker then you're the guy or gal who says things like "I can quit anytime I want!"  And very often you do.  You'll smoke for like a month or three years and then just stop for a couple years or weeks until the mood strikes you and then you light up again and that cycle will last for some other variation of time.  More often than not the breaks you take from smoking are just long enough to convince yourself that you actually are in control of your addiction.  FYI, being in control of your addiction means you don't do it anymore.  Just ask an of the friends of Bill's mentioned earlier.  Frankly that question might get you laughed at in that circle.  They'll laugh at you then embrace you as one of their own because we've all denied it and claimed to be in control when we really were not.  Again, I know I have and I am willing to own that too.  Are you?

So have you figured out which one you are?  If if you don't smoke anymore, where did you fall in this line up?  I don't know about you but when I look closely at my career as a smoke I think at one point I covered everyone of these types.  I started out as a Recreational like most of us and had a very brief stint as a Situational Smoker.   The rest of my career as a smoker was a fine weaving of Emotional Smoker mixed with the Scared to Quit Smoker with a side of Worried About Weight Smoker.  And the whole whack was washed down with a tall glass of Bourbon.

And now here we are 2010.  8+ years sans Camel.  4+ years sans Bourbon.  Today I did Swings with an 88 pound Kettlebell for 10 minutes.  I did 120 repetitions.  That's 10560 pounds lifted in ten minutes.  My lung feels great!  Thank you Dice Clay for that timely gag.

How about you?  Are you ready to kick the habit?  Have you been ready for a while?  Do you know someone that needs to?  This blog is first and foremost a conversation.  Yes I am shamelessly here to plug my book, but the mission of this book and this blog is to empower you the addict (smoker) to have the courage, confidence and sheer f-in' will to just STOP.  If this book, blog or Dr. Dan's book is what it takes, then more power to you!

That's about it for now, leave a comment here and join in the conversation!  Oh, one more thing, if you'd like the first chapter of my book for free, visit www.stopdontquit.com

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anxiety Makes Quitting Smoking Harder

I recently stumbled upon this article:

Sometimes, the blog finds you...

This article covers a study by the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention where 1500 smokers were analyzed.

What grabbed me most was this, "To understand the relations among anxiety disorders and tobacco dependence, withdrawal symptoms, response to smoking cessation pharmacotherapy and ability to quit smoking."

Pharmacothera...  what?

Pharmacotherapy:  the treatment of disease through the administration of drugs.

OH!  That!  When you see big words like that, feel free to get a little anxious.  I know I always do.  In fact, I'm thinking about reaching for a smoke right now I'm so anxious!

But I digress, really.  Here's the deal, some folks went out to answer the question, "If you suffer from anxiety AND smoke cigarettes, will it be harder to quit?"

Their findings:  "Anxiety diagnoses were common among treatment-seeking smokers and were related to increased motivation to smoke, elevated withdrawal, lack of response to pharmacotherapy and impaired ability to quit smoking. These findings could guide treatment assignment algorithms and treatment development for smokers with anxiety diagnoses."

This leaves me with one major question:  Who in the #%&* funded this?  Are you serious?  Is this some kind of joke?  Can you say no brainer?  I can.  If I was 11 years old the phrase "no-duh" would be ringing out load and proud!

So, just so we're clear here, not only is smoking getting put into the disease category instead of the disease CAUSING category, it is now official that if you've been anxious for a while and you smoke, then quitting is going to be a bitch.

Dude, quitting is already a bitch!  As if I wasn't anxious enough, now you're telling me withdrawals will be elevated, no motivation, and what's all this pharmaco-whatever talk? 

Look, I won't hide it, I've suffered from anxiety my whole life.  Why do you think I started smoking?  At least the real reason.  The subtext of it all...  suddenly that nicotine relaxed me.  Evened out my brain chemistry or at least covered up the feelings.  Why do people become alcoholics?  Drug Addicts?  Self-Medication is a prime factor.  Even if the soon to be addict isn't aware of it.  It's quite simple really.  The knots and butterflies, the nausea, the tight chest and diaphragm, the sensation that I might crap myself, all that stuff suddenly goes away when I have a cigarette and I can think clearer.  These thoughts process faster than a light going on so it never has time to fully register, but there it is.  Smoke this, feel better.  Self medication.
The article wraps up with this amazing insight:  "The results of this study demonstrate that habitual smoking may be caused by more factors than nicotine addiction."
Speaking of being 11 years old again and excuse the language, but a "no shit Sherlock!" is the only appropriate comment here.

Look folks, especially the ones still making the decision to continue smoking, smoking is a decision you make every time you light up.  In my book, How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, I contend that for most people, especially if you, like me, suffer from anxiety disorder, it is impossible to quit.  So don't bother trying.  It is however, VERY possible to stop smoking.

After all that is the name of this blog...  stop, don't quit.  For more on that, you'll have to read the book.  Yes, I am in this for the money!  Not really, I'm kidding...  sort of.  What I am in it for, more than anything,  is to help people make the decision to stop smoking and to give themselves the permission they need to love themselves just enough to finally knock this passive aggressive from of suicide off once and for all.

I find it disturbing that someone needed "scientific evidence" to establish a "treatment algorithm" for smokers with anxiety disorder.  I don't think a word like that should be anywhere near a discussion about treatment for individuals.  It's too sterile for me.  Then again, I'm not a scientist.  I'm too left brain for any of that.

Anyway, there's my 2 cents on that.  This blog was intended to seriously analyze the study and the article but as I kept reading the article and the study I found it near impossible to take it seriously and while smoking cessation is serious and should not be taken lightly, this article to me, gives too much power to nicotine and cigarettes and diminishes the human spirit and human potential to overcome a condition.  Especially a condition (nicotine addiction) one imposed on them self.

Friday, December 10, 2010


"Do not wish to be anything but what you are." 
~St. Francis de Sales.     
This is very powerful for those of you still on the fence about whether or not you are going to stop smoking or for that matter break any habit.  Who are you?  How well do you know your self?
Give it some thought...  let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Man Calls 911 Reports a False Murder Blames Nicotine - Part Two

In case you missed it, http://stopdontquit.blogspot.com/2010/11/man-calls-911-reports-false-murder.html

Now that you're caught up, I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is.  So after posting the previously mentioned blog, I promptly went to Amazon.com and sent Alex Lee Baker a copy of my book, How to Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone.  There's a special on free 2-Day shipping right now, so he should have it by December 2nd.  Which ironically, is today!

With any luck Mr. Baker will find a few tools to help him in his quest to stop smoking.  Many a news and blog organization are reporting on this kind of tongue in cheek, but I got to tell you, from some one who's been there and done that, the withdrawal phase is no joke.  I completely understand and empathize with how Alex must have felt and what the anxiety must have been like.  It can drive you crazy.  Literally.  And it's no wonder why people can stop most hard drugs, get off booze, and still smoke!  Go stand outside an AA meeting after it gets out.  How many people light up after?  The real challenge is to identify addiction, know where it came from and how it got into your life and then face it head on.

Good Luck to you Alex Lee Baker!